When most were dismissing virtual reality as a gimmick, Ivan Mathy was already helping companies design virtual worlds. The designer of interactive environments dedicated himself to the development of VR technology – for professional use in particular. In his eyes, there were three kinds of organization: those who continued to see VR as nothing more than a fad; those who virtualized everything and anything they get their hands on; and those who did it right.
"First ask yourself the question: do I really need VR for what I hope to achieve?" he advises at the HACKVENTION stage in Hall 17. He explains that enterprises often tack VR onto existing projects simply because it's a trendy technology. They then see that it doesn't make their employees any more productive – and that all it offers is a bit of fun. However, 3D interaction is bringing measurable benefits to an increasing number of tasks.
In manufacturing especially, people are increasingly experimenting with technologies and processes that can prove dangerous to humans. Programming a robot for such specific tasks alone isn't worth the hassle. But VR is allowing us to experiment in the virtual realm – and a digital lever never hurt anyone. What's more, when it comes to training, virtual reality can save serious amounts of money. Indeed, with VR, employees no longer need to practice on some special machine, but can learn their trade from anywhere.
Big data has long since made its debut in almost every industry. Yet the more data that exists, the harder it is to analyze. According to Mathy, VR can make it easier. "Directly manipulating data in 3D – and not just viewing it on a 2D timeline – makes it so much simpler to interpret patterns, for example." VR can even improve what Mathy regards as a rather "isolated" means of collaboration: "You have to see it to believe it, but a VR conference is far better than a normal one. The ability to point at things and read body language changes everything," enthuses Mathy.
VR might lead to a long-awaited boom in sales and marketing – especially today, when customers are better informed and resistant to persuasion techniques than ever before. Virtual worlds deliver new, fun, and unique experiences designed to provide the finishing touch to any sales pitch. For instance, VR allows prospective buyers to take virtual tours of houses or flats – instead of just looking at the floor plan. Meanwhile, a salesperson can instantly implement changes to the item they're selling; the car you’re interested in is the wrong color? A flick of the wrist and red becomes green. Scenarios like this give marketers creative freedom and make sales more personalized.
VR is gradually becoming established in almost every area of medicine. Researchers are able to fold proteins by means of 3D modeling. In clinical diagnostics, volumetric display allows doctors to view the development of a tumor over time. VR can even support treatment – of certain phobias, for example. By facing their fears virtually, patients have a higher chance of overcoming them than with traditional methods. The technology has also helped manage phantom pains in missing limbs. VR goggles trick the brain into thinking that the arm or leg is still attached – and can rewire the nerves sending out the pain impulse.
The entertainment industry, art, and the military: VR can create new experiences in almost every sector. According to pioneer Ivan Mathy, its potential is primarily geared towards data processing and training. But he makes one thing clear: "Barely anyone has ample experience with virtual reality." Developers have to take this into account in designing VR technologies and applications.
CeBIT visitors can find out more about virtual reality and its business potential at HACKVENTION in Hall 17. The hacker community joins forces with VR developers to lead the event.